Saudi Arabia tops German arms trade list

German weapons exports to Persian Gulf states more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, with Saudi Arabia by far the biggest buyer, according to information dug up by a left-wing MP published in Friday's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Saudi Arabia tops German arms trade list
Saudi King Abdullah. Photo: DPA

The states of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which form the Gulf cooperation council, spent between them €1.42 billion on German arms in 2012.

This was a huge increase from the 2011 figure of €570 million. The information was released by the Economy Ministry in response to a written parliamentary question submitted by the socialist Left party, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday.

The biggest arms customer of the region was Saudi Arabia which spent €1.24 billion in 2012 alone – nine times the amount it spent on German weapons the year before.

German business with Saudi Arabia is highly contentious because of the kingdom’s poor domestic human rights record and its intervention in neighbouring Bahrain two years ago to help the government there put down protests.

“The Gulf states continue to arm themselves, and the government has absolutely no compunction about arming them to the teeth,” said Jan van Aken, an MP from The Left party.

He said the fact that Saudi Arabia was by far the leading customer for the German arms export industry clearly showed “that the most grave human rights abuses are obviously no longer any reason to refuse exports.”

The Local/hc

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US Congress moves to block Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Germany

US lawmakers have announced a bill that would delay the withdrawal of US troops until after President Donald Trump has left office, thus opening a door to a reversal of a decision announced by Trump in the summer.

US Congress moves to block Trump's withdrawal of troops from Germany
A US soldier in Grafenwöhr, Bavaria. Photo: DPA

The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), which still needs to pass through the US Congress, specifies that a troop withdrawal can only happen 120 days after the defence secretary presents a report to Congress analysing whether the troop withdrawal is in the US national interest.

In June, President Trump announced plans to withdraw close to 12,000 of the 36,000 US troops based in Germany, citing Berlin’s failure to meet its NATO spending commitments.

As Trump is to leave office on January 20th, to be replaced by Democrat Joe Biden, the bill casts doubt on the entire troop withdrawal.

READ ALSO: Trump 'to withdraw thousands of US soldiers from Germany by end of 2020'

Trump still has the chance to veto the bill, something he indicated that he would do on Wednesday, although the objections he cited in a Twitter post did not reference the block on his troop withdrawal plans. A two thirds majority in Congress could then overturn his veto.

Trump's plans met with criticism from the US military top brass, as well as from his own Republican party. In Congress, both Democrats and Trump's Republicans announced their opposition to the plans.

The bill now states that Congress continues to value Germany as a strong NATO partner. The presence of the “approximately 34,500 members of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Germany” serves as an important deterrent against Russia's expansionist ambitions in Europe, it states. 

The bill further states that the U.S. troops in Germany are of central importance for supporting U.S. missions in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan.

A few weeks after Trump's announcement, the now dismissed US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper made it clear that the plans were to be implemented “as quickly as possible”. As yet though, there has been no troop reduction.

A good half of the 12,000 soldiers were to be recalled to the USA, while 5,600 were to be transferred to other NATO countries.

Three locations in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate would be particularly hard hit by the plans: Stuttgart, Vilseck and Spangdahlem.